New AL/TESOL Lecturer Beth Clark-Gareca at Fall Brown Bag Luncheon

BrownBagLunchThe Applied Linguistics (AL) and TESOL program has acquired a reputation for hosting a multitude of events for students and faculty alike. This November’s Brown Bag Lunch Presentation promised such an occasion in the form of a tempered student gathering.

The Brown Bag Lunch Presentation is hosted every semester by the Web Journal Committee under the AL program at Teachers College. “Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics” is a student-run online editorial, which publishes manuscripts from scholars in and outside of Teachers College.

Since it’s inception in 2001, the committee has aspired to provide fellow scholars with ongoing research across all fields, including second language acquisition, language testing, pedagogy, and discourse studies. The series is published every semester and is completely open-access.

Yuna Seong, a doctoral student in the AL program at Teachers College, is not only the organizer of this year’s Brown Bag Lunch, but also the editor of the web journal. She reserved the room in Horace Mann, ordered catering and collaborated with this semester’s speaker, Dr. Beth Clark-Gareca, in preparation for the presentation.

Dr. Clark-Gareca is the newest lecturer to join the AL and TESOL program this fall. The presentation for this installment of the Brown Bag Lunch focused on Dr. Clark-Gareca’s dissertation entitled, “Sometimes an F+ is Good: Elementary English Language Learners and Classroom Content Tasks.”

It is not uncommon for the committee to ask new faculty to present as it is also a great opportunity for students to interact with their professors on a smaller scale. “Sometimes we invite doctoral students or students from other colleges and universities. We also take recommendations,” Ms. Seong said.

Pictured: Beth Clark-Gareca

Pictured: Beth Clark-Gareca

Although new to Teachers College, Dr. Clark-Gareca seemed to have already built a rapport with students in attendance. She circulated casually between guests before her presentation, warranting a relaxed atmosphere for the event. Guests are encouraged to bring their own lunches, mimicking a sort of pot luck lunch affair.

In her research, Dr. Clark-Gareca found many English Language Learners, or ELLs, reported hard work leads to good grades. “In reality, effort doesn’t always lead to good grades,” she said. She analyzed ELLs perception of classroom assessment practices through student interviews, Math and Science content, the role of language acquisition and the students’ grades.

The most engrossing aspect of her presentation came forth when she echoed the perceptive voices of the young fourth graders she interviewed. Reflecting the title of her work was an interview with a young student named, Brittany. Dr. Clark-Gareca asked Brittany what a good grade was to her. “Um, A+ or A,” Brittany responded.

“OK, And what’s a bad grade?” Dr. Clark-Gareca asked.

“An F… and sometimes an F+ is good… an F-, not that good,” she said.

For students, motivation primarily reflected good grades over ability, knowledge, intelligence and even language proficiency. Dr. Clark-Gareca argued on behalf of young ELLs, saying, “Really, you know, fourth graders, they have a lot of insight into their own worlds and their own practices being in school.”

She also mentioned very little research has been conducted with young ELLs so far, piquing the interest of listeners. The remaining hour of the presentation was opened to discussion between Dr. Clark-Gareca and the student audience.

A relatively modest affair, the Brown Bag Lunch provided students with a now familiar authority in the TESOL field among young English Language Learners.